Ex-UEFA president Michel Platini has been detained by authorities probing corruption around the 2022 World Cup, financial prosecutors said Tuesday.
He was taken into custody as part of an investigation into the awarding of the tournament to Qatar, a spokesman for the Parquet National Financier confirmed to Euronews.
Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges and that he was being questioned on “technical grounds.”
The 1980s French football legend served as UEFA president until 2015 when he was banned by FIFA over separate ethics violations. However, he was later cleared by Swiss authorities of any criminal wrongdoing.
Platini is currently being held at the PNF offices just outside Paris. The organisation specialises in investigating economic crimes and corruption and since 2016 has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate.
It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence-peddling.
UEFA declined to comment, while officials with Qatar’s organising committee could not immediately be reached.
The decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country’s national squad. It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.
Le Monde newspaper reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France’s then-president, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the vote that awarded the cup to Qatar. Platini and Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, who was Qatar’s prime minister and is now the country’s emir, were guests at the lunch.
Platini has since acknowledged that he supported Qatar over a rival bid from the United States in the vote, but said Sarkozy “never asked him to”, the newspaper said.
Two of Sarkozy’s aides at that time, then Elysee secretary general Claude Gueant and Sarkozy’s adviser for sports Sophie Dion, were also questioned by police on Tuesday, judicial sources confirmed to Reuters. Dion remains detained with Platini. Gueant is a “free suspect”, the source said.
A spokeswoman for Sarkozy declined to comment. A lawyer for Dion could not immediately be reached for comment.
Under French law, suspects can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours.
Platini was a prolific striker in the 1970s and 80s, mainly for Saint-Etienne and Juventus in Italy. He played in three world cups, captaining the national squad to the semi-finals in both 1982 and 1986.